24 April 2013
probably should’ve come up with this post several days back, but circumstances led me to wait a bit more than I would’ve liked…. anyway, there’s always a time for everything, and perhaps this is the time for this post…. “Bangladesh in Frames V” (BIF) came to an end last night (23rd April 2013) making us feel a bit empty…. this group photo that we’re talking about was on display outside Drik Gallery for five days during the exhibit…. those who are wondering why a group shot like this is so special to us, can visit our previous two posts on group shots of this nature…. the one for BIF-3 (2011) and the one for BIF-4 (2012) set a standard for “Through the Lens: Bangladesh” (TTL) and made our work harder…. this meant that every year we have to produce something ever more creative and ever better…. that sounds ominous, but it also throws a challenge at us that forces us to think out of the box and put an extra bit of effort….
the brainstorming… or whatever….
very unfortunately this year was an exception and we had very little time to prepare…. the previous two years involved a lotta brainstorming, planning, site visits, etc… this time round, there was none of that…. yet, it had to be done…. the probable site for the shoot was selected just a day before the shoot…. and we still weren’t sure whether that site was really perfect for what we intended to carry out…. on 12 April, we gathered around Dhaka University’s Curzon Hall in the late afternoon hours…. before the group really formed up, I took the ever so creative Hameem Shakhawat with me for a walk around the place…. this time round I didn’t have the company of the ever-brilliant AKA… so, I needed someone to cook some unique ideas with me….
lets go for ‘Plan-B’ first….
we looked around Curzon Hall and picked the Hall’s main gate as the backdrop for the group photo…. this was the ‘Plan-A’…. but it didn’t really impress us… the spot lacked the dynamism we were looking for…. the angles (camera angles) were a bit flat and it was not easy to get a good vantage point…. the spot also lacked any geometric patterns or any real dynamic lighting…. the late afternoon light was not bad, but it didn’t really make the building look particularly flattering because of some big trees between the sun and the building…. and even worse was that the light was dropping fast… there was no guarantee that the light would be there even after 15-20 minutes…. so, it was time to look for a ‘Plan-B’…..
we decided to go outside the Hall compound to explore something else…. the superb “Doel Chattar” would’ve been a nice place only if we could halt the traffic on that busy intersection for half-an-hour or so…. hmmm…. okk…. next…. right, there were Dhaka University double-decker buses lining up on the road right next to Curzon Hall compound…. Hameem proposed if we could shoot our group lining up all the buses…. well, thats the spark that was needed…. this weird idea gave rise to something better and we thought it might not be a bad idea to shoot just a single bus, making it a whole frame… the double-decker would actually be the frame (well, almost)….
the race against time!
but the problem was time….. the buses had a schedule…. and they were already leaving…. Shudipto said that they usually leave by around 5:00PM…. and it was already 4:56PM…. yet, we decided to test our luck, as the bus right in front didn’t seem to be readying for anything…. Mithun brought the news this particular bus was gonna move by 5:30PM….. gotcha!!…. it took less than 10 minutes to muster all the people in front of the bus…. the the bus itself was capable of showing barely 20-plus faces…. so, rest of the group had to stand or sit in front of the bus….
why this particular bus?
this particular bus looked like best choice, as this one was the cleanest of all on the outside… it didn’t have any marking at all…. that suited our idea more than anything else… in fact, this is the very fact that led us to believe that a frame filled with only the bus might look good…. AKA had to add some copy to this one for the big banner…. so, if there was no space left outside the bus, where would the text go?…. you guessed it right…. on the bus itself…. perfect display…. and we had all the confidence on AKA…. he’s the best graphic designer I’ve seen….
ok, back to the shoot…. sunlight was almost non-existent that place…. it was barely there…. I brought the Elinchrom Ranger unit with me as the main (and only) light… I wasn’t sure about the exact place of the shoot, thats why I didn’t risk bringing in more flashes…. more flashes mean more time, which we never had…. we had to set the light across the road left of the camera…. there were vehicles plying through the road between the group+bus and the camera+light…. cheap 28-80mm lens on D700…. @44mm…. f13 for maximum depth and sharpness…. ISO400 (didn’t wanna push it too hard for the massive print; last time heard some complaints for ISO1200)… shutter was 1/40sec (started with 1/125sec)…. well, could’ve chosen a faster shutter speed though, but it would’ve looked like taken at night and would’ve been even more contrasty (it already was)…. so, some of the areas in some of the shots turned a bit blurry when everyone shouted and raised their hands, even though most of the motion-stopping power was provided by the Ranger unit, which was shooting at almost full power…. the light was on the other side of the road, and this distance reduced the power on the subjects to some degree…. some light fall-off resulted because of this distance….
we missed AKA!
the first shot was taken at 5:05PM and the last one at 5:11PM…. the last few were taken stopping traffic on the road for around 30 seconds or so…. there was no way to look at the post-view on LCD while the traffic was stopped…. quite annoyingly, some of the participants in the group shot still ended up talking to each other…. we gave proper warnings, but were not harsh enough as managers of a chaotic group of people…. we missed AKA here…. his presence was a commanding factor during all of the previous group shots…. he was meticulous with the placement of every single individual during the previous shoots…. and also, with a little look at the back LCD, we could’ve corrected some of the dark areas with some reshuffle in placement of people, but thats quite hypothetical given that we were shooting a group while stopping traffic on a busy road….
we did go back to the ‘Plan-A’ once the more acceptable ‘Plan-B’ was shot…. we completed the shoot in ever poorer light conditions…. it was really dull and looked almost overcast…. and we knew straightaway that this isn’t the one we looked for…. so, I’m not publishing that photo…. let that be a mystery….